A Brief Historical Account
of Formal Education in Eritrea
Educational reforms and developments
are taking place all over the world and in both the developed and
developing countries, primarily because of the impact of globalisation,
technological advancements, pressures from educational professionals as
well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Aid Agencies. These
reforms and developments that are being carried out include but are not
limited to reforms in elementary, middle and secondary general education,
reforms in higher education, developments in vocational and technical
skill training, developments in literacy and adult education, issues
relating to gender equality, developments in curriculum provision and
modern teaching methodology, in teacher training education, in new
approaches of planning, economics and finance of education as well as the
implementation of business administration, quality management systems and
health and safety management systems in educational establishments.
Eritrea has been engaged in educational
reforms since 2002, however, before discussing educational reforms and
developments in Eritrea, it’s imperative that the historical background of
formal education in Eritrea is understood.
Education is the process by which
people acquire knowledge, skills, developments, attitudes and virtues and
enhances the ability of people to use their natural skills and ingenuity.
Education is also perceived as a means of raising political and social
consciousness as well as of increasing the number of skilled workers and
raising the quality and standard of trained manpower.
Education is either formal or
informal. Formal education is systematic, structured and planned
instruction, usually offered by religious, educational and other
institutions. The churches and mosques planted the first seeds of formal
education in Eritrea. The first European explorers and missionaries have
in deed confirmed that the Eritrean people were able to read and write in
different languages before the scramble of Africa.
Informal education is the earliest form of education with the family being the primary institute and agent of education. The societies and the general environments people live in also offer informal education. In this kind of education, children were taught the various skills of cooking, childcare, washing and cleaning, brewing, sewing, farming skills, hunting and to supplement the household income with cottage arts & crafts. Additionally, children were also taught oral history, the art of telling folk stories, proverbs and songs.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN ERITREA
The churches and mosques planted the
first seeds of formal education in Eritrea. When we closely look into the
historical background of education in Eritrea, it had the religious
education which was heavily religious-oriented whether Christian or
For centuries, church education was the only source of formal education for the Christians in Eritrea. For centuries, its central purpose has been to prepare a clerical class highly proficient in Biblical interpretation and religious doctrine, adopt in the shaping of exceptionally sophisticated poetry, in reproducing church music and in performing traditional religious dance. In other words, like church education in Christendom, it was designed primarily for the training in the priesthood, but served also to diffuse and preserve all aspects of Christian culture.
Generally, children went to two essentially different types of
church schools, the first, which may be considered as elementary schools,
were small village establishments, usually run by a single priest and the
second, which were fewer in number, were larger and academically more
advanced, institutions where a number of teachers who were either priests
or monks specialised in different subjects.
schools, concerned largely with the reading, and memorisation, of the
Psalms and lessons were generally carried out within the church compound
or within the residence of the priest.
the present decade, church schools were responsible for giving many
children the opportunity to learn letters, now the task of the modern
school system i.e. ‘learning to read’ is the school of reading in which
children learn ‘Geez alphabet’
instruction. The Geez language consists of 34 letters with 7 forms each
and 5 letters with 5 forms each. The methods of instruction applied by the
Orthodox Church include Readings writing and memorization. So many men
within their communities successfully completed their courses in different
clergy hierarchies and graduated as Deacons, Halekas and Keshies.
Traditionally, however women were
not encouraged to get education among Christian communities in
reached Eritrea across the Red Sea during the initial stages of the spread
of this religion and was introduced to the Eritrean people by the early
followers of the Prophet who sought refuge from persecution in Mecca.
Hence Eritreans who resided along the Red Sea coast became the first
Africans to accept Islam as their religion.
The fist formal Islamic school was established in Eritrea by the Ottomans in Tewalet in 1870. Islamic education in Eritrea was the only source of formal education for Eritrean Muslims. The earliest forms of Islamic schools in Eritrea were known as the Katatib or Khalwah and were established both in the urban and rural areas. Khalwah is a place usually inside Mosques that provide good environment for pupils to memorise the Holy Quran and to learn the basic principles of Islam. Mosques always play a crucial role in the teaching and learning of Islam education as well as how to perform prayers and enhance the pupils Islamic knowledge. These institutions mainly taught the Holy Quran and the other foundations of Islam. These Quranic schools gradually evolved and developed into Islamic Institutes known as Ma’ahed that have similar organisational structure and design to the modern schools.
function of Koran-oriented education was primarily to produce people who
are well aquatinted with the basic principles of Islam. The study of Koran
was, therefore, an essential starting point. The schools also provide
basic and advanced Arabic grammar, higher levels of interpretation of
Islamic religion, basic and advanced arithmetic, history and hygiene. The
purpose of Islamic education was to teach Muslim children about the
culture heritage and brotherhood of Islam. Similar to church schools, the
methods of learning were primarily based on listening reading oral
recitation and memorization.
teaching methodology practised though differs from one teacher to another
was generally a teacher directed method. The Teachers would sit on a mat
in front of the classroom and facing the pupils. The teachers dictate some
of the verses to the pupils who would write on their Louh, a wooden
tablet. The pupils must memorise the verses very well and recite them to
their teacher and the pupils without making any errors before advancing to
the more advance stage. Where the pupils fail to memorise the verses
correctly, they are forced to repeat the same verses until they get them
The pupils have to undergo through several stages depending on their abilities starting with the beginners who start to learn the Arabic alphabets and gradually Arabic words. The next stage is where the pupils start to learn how construct sentences using few words. The third stage is where the pupils would learn how to make longer and compound sentences. After this stage, the pupils start to learn the first chapter of the Holy Quran and with strict supervision from the Quranic teachers they write the sentences on their Louh.
So many men within their communities
successfully completed their courses in different clergy hierarchies and
graduated as Shieks and following vast experiences were recognised and
promoted to Quadies and Mufties.
Traditionally, however women were not encouraged to get
education among Muslim communities in Eritrea. The Islamic education
system was however the main agent for the expansion of education among the
Muslim population in rural and urban areas of Eritrea.
MODERN EDUCATION IN ERITREA:
Education Offered by European Missionaries
The early Catholic missionaries De Jacobis
first introduced Eritreans to the European style formal and modern
education in 1839. The Swedish Evangelical Missionary Society as well as
the True Friends of the Bible fertilised the early seeds of formal
education and introduced practical subjects like woodwork and metalwork as
well as in the languages of Tigre, Tigrinya and Kunama.
The first Swedish Evangelical missionaries
arrived in Eritrea in 1866. They initially started to preach Christianity
in the highlands and lowlands of Eritrea. However, they encountered
resistance from the locals and were forced to move and establish
themselves in the Gash Barka region where they taught the Kunama people.
They further encountered more fierce resistance and as a result three of
their eleven missionaries were killed. Once again they were forced to move
from the area and this time they travelled towards the coast all the way
to the Massawa area in a place called Menkulu. It was in this area that
they first established a clinic, a school and a printing. These
institutions rendered their services to the region including
Furthermore, the Catholic Lazarists
Missionaries opened the first school in Keren in 1872. This school had
enrolled 500-day students and additional 158 boarding students of which 80
were boys and 78 of them were girls. Some of the subjects taught were
languages, woodwork, metalwork, tailoring, agriculture and printing. After Eritrea became an Italian
colony in 1890, the Lazarist who were French citizen were forced to leave
Eritrea in 1896 because France opposed the Italian colonial expansion in
The Swedish missionaries moved the school in
Menkulu to Beleza in 1890 and taught subjects like Tigrinya, Italian,
threading, textile and home economics. In 1889, a boys’ school was opened
in Gheleb and a new girls school was later opened in Adi-weghri in 1890.
Other schools soon opened in Asmara, Tse-Azegha, Keren, Gheleb, Kuluko,
Awsa and Kunama area. A very small percentage of the school age population
children were lucky to benefit from the Mission schools and by 1905, the
total number of students in Eritrea were only 100. By 1920, these schools
were able to enrol and offer education to about 1000 students at any given
time. By 1952 and after 86
years, 140 members of staff of the Swedish missionaries served in Eritrea.
Sadly 35 of them died while working in Eritrea.
The Italians forced the mission schools to
close down in 1932 because the teachings of these schools were not
compatible to the Italian education policy in Eritrea. The missionaries
encountered resistance from the Italian colonisers and Italian religious
leaders as well as the local population.
It is to be noted that many of the missions
have had an outstanding track record of running several schools and
clinics across the width and breadth of Eritrea since their establishment.
Their many schools and orphanages raised generations of citizens that have
distinguished themselves as exemplars of personal character, integrity and
civic virtue. Many products of these church schools are highly respected
citizens in the professions and positions of leadership within Eritrea as
well as in the Diaspora.
Education During The Italian Colonial Era
the Italian colonisation, there was a dual system of education, one for
the Eritreans and one for Italian nationals. The Italian schools were not
open to Eritreans. Italians established the first colonial formal
education schools in Eritrea after Eritrea became an Italian colony in
1890. The first schools for Italians only, were opened in 1896. There was
only a very gradual opening up of education opportunity for Eritreans,
beginning only after the World War I. Schooling was limited up to the
fourth grade for Eritreans and schools were mainly funded by the Catholic
Church. There were no schools opened in the rural areas and the few that
were established were limited to the urban areas. The language of
instruction used was mainly Italian, though the widely spoken languages of
Tigrinya and Tigre were also used to help the newer students. It is
reported that in 1923 there were only 523 Eritrean students enrolled in
the country however, there was no planned and structured education system
implemented during this era.
purpose of Italian education in Eritrea was clear and narrow. It was to
indoctrinate the Eritreans with devotion for Italy and a respect for
Italian culture and civilization. To be opened for Eritreans to become
worthy elements of the native troops, interpreters, clerks, telephone
operators and typists. Some of the textbooks used in schools also
glorified the Italian way of life, culture and heroism of the Italian
According to Trevaskis, a confidential memorandum circulated by the Italian Director of education in Eritrea and addressed to the then Italian Headmasters stated as follows: -
end of his fourth year, the Eritrean student should be able to speak our
language moderately well, he should know the four arithmetical operations
within normal limits, he should be convinced propagandist of the
principles of hygiene, and history, he should know only names of those who
have made Italy great.’’
observed that in 1935, 2,472 students were enrolled. By 1939, the total
number enrolled in Eritrea was 4,177 students. This shockingly small
number of Eritrean students had further declined by 1941. Then there were
only 16 schools in operation. There were 152 teachers in these schools
including 33 Italian elementary school teachers, 86 nuns and 27 Eritrean
assistants. The curriculum was later expanded to include history,
geography, language, hygiene, and arts and crafts and by the end of the
Italian colonial era there were about 25 schools in Eritrea. However, only
one out of five students remained in these schools until the end of the
school year and girls were not permitted to enrol schools for most of this
era and until 1934. Even then, the schools only taught girls domestic
skills and reinforced their household and spousal roles.
Education During The British Military Administration Era (1941-1952):
was no organised and structured education system for Eritreans during the
Italian era, one of the fundamental measures taken by the British Military
Administration was to establish and implement a new education
In 1941, a new educational system was established in Eritrea and captain Kynaston Snell became the Director of Education and Mr. Isaac Teweldemedhine, an Eritrean who received his elementary school education at the Swedish Mission school, was appointed inspector of education. He had teaching experience before the Swedish Mission school was closed in 1932.
the first Department of Education was established in Eritrea. The primary
aim of the British education policy was to divide and rule Eritreans and
force them into a wage economy.
In December 1934, there were 19 elementary schools. Regarding the expansion of elementary schools in Eritrea, Allen (1953), stated that 19 schools which had been established in the first month of operation, however in December 1943, the number of schools had grown 28 with 50 instructors, and the enrolment of pupils were considerably increased (Allen, 1953; Teshome, 1974).
The British Administration based its
educational system on a growing number of elementary schools throughout
the country, with middle schools in centres of population. Indeed, during
the British Military Administration schools were expanded rapidly and it
was during this era that the first middle schools were established in
Eritrea. In general, education during this period was limited to just the
completion of middle school (up to grade 8).
Furthermore, the first teachers training college was
established in Asmara in 1943 and the first Eritrean Teachers were trained
after completion of middle school in 8th grade. The British
also sent three Eritrean teachers to Britain for further training at the
Training Department of Edinburgh University. These Eritreans returned to
Eritrea upon completion of their training with excellent grades. One of
them became Principal of the Teachers Training College and the other two
became Education Officers, supervising educational work in two of the
provinces of Eritrea.
this era, Tigrinya for the Christians in the highlands and Arabic for the
Muslims in the lowlands became the languages of instruction in elementary
schools. Italian was replaced by English language as a subject at this
level and was institutionalised as the language of instruction in middle
and secondary schools. All three levels of general education that is
elementary, middle and secondary were for four years each and the academic
year was composed of three terms of roughly three months each.
Isaac Teweldemedhin and other Eritreans took the initiative of producing
textbooks written in Tigrinya, because there were no textbooks written in
Tigrinya. According to Trevaskis (1960), Arabic textbooks for Eritrean
elementary schools were obtained from Egypt and the Sudan.
the first middle school was opened with 115 students; there were 59
elementary schools in Eritrea with 4,906 students and 151 staff. In 1949,
there were 5 middle schools in all the main districts with 504 students.
The enrolment in middle schools increased from 504 in 1949 to 862 in 1950,
an increase of 71 %. The first 7 Eritrean students were sent to Khartoum
for secondary education. By 1950, there were 85 primary schools with total
enrolment of 9,131, with 210 staff and 7 middle schools with 862
students. During this era,
elementary school pupils population increased by 380 % from 2,405 to
British education system tried to abolish the ‘’all-age’’ school admission
and tried to standardise and introduced a statutory school age of five and
enrol middle schools by the age of eleven. During this era the number of
girls enrolling schools significantly increased. In most schools, special
lessons were allocated for girls that included sewing, dressmaking and
other activities that were considered at the time only suitable for
Education During The Federal Era (1952-62):
the Federation with Ethiopia, the establishment of schools and progress of
education was maintained. In addition to elementary and middle schools, 2
new secondary schools, a technical school (Asmera Teghbar-Id), and a
nursing college were opened. Furthermore, the Missionary Congregation Pie
Madri Della Nigrizia of Verona, Italy established the University of Asmara
during this era on 20th December 1954. Asmara Technical school was
established in 1954 at the then Italian Military Supply Depot Converted to
technical school in cooperation with the US government under the Point
Four programme, the present day Agency for International Aid affiliated
with the Department of State. The Nursing College was established on the
Italian Military Hospital also with help of the US government.
education system practised was similar to that introduced by the British
Administration. All three levels of general education (elementary, middle
and secondary) were for four years each and the academic year was composed
of three terms of about three months each. The language of instruction at
elementary level was also Tigrinya in the highlands and Arabic in the
lowlands as was during the British Administration era. English was taught
as a subject in elementary schools and was maintained as the language of
instruction from middle school up to higher education. For the first time
in Eritrea, schools were opened in rural areas during this era and by the
end of the Federal era in 1962, there were 145 elementary schools, 14
middle schools and 2 secondary schools nationwide.
The Technical school accepted students after completion of 8th grade and offered four-year courses but the teachers training college offered one-year courses to those who completed 8th grade. The nursing course was for four years after completion of 12th grade.
By the mid 1950s, the Ethiopian government started interfering in the Eritrean education system particularly through the imposition of Amharic language as a subject in schools in 1958.
standard of education and the standard of English as a second language
were maintained. According to the information available, in the Haile
Selassie -I and Prince Mekonen, together about 250 students were enrolled
in 1956. Writing was considered an essential skill for academic success.
But the high demands and expectations of Eritrean school children were not
Education During The Ethiopian Colonial Era (1962 - May
result of Ethiopian annexation on 14 November 1962, Eritrean education
system was merged into the Ethiopian education system. Elementary school
education was increased from four to six years and Amharic was introduced
as language of instruction. Both Tigrinya and Arabic were abolished.
Eritrean elementary school children were denied the right to learn in
Tigrinya and Arabic. Arabic and Tigrinya textbooks were abolished from
schools and some of the textbooks were burned. Therefore, the use of
Arabic and Tigrinya languages in regular academic settings was terminated.
English, which was taught as a subject in elementary schools, continued to
be taught as a subject up to the end of the 6th grade. Using English as a
language of instruction started from seventh grade onwards and was likely
to contribute to the decline of the standard of English language and
education in general in Eritrean schools.
school was reduced from four to two years (7th to
8th grade) but English was maintained as the language of
instruction and Amharic was taught as a subject. Secondary school remained
unchanged for four years 9th to 12th grade with
English as the language of instruction and Amharic also taught as a
subject. Furthermore, the three terms per academic year was abolished and
the two semesters per academic year was introduced. As from 1964 – 1991
national school examination were prepared on the completion of 6th, 8th
and 12th grades.
it was reported that there were 200 elementary schools opened, enrolling
over 42,000 students. There were also 7 secondary schools, with almost
19,000 students operating, with a small evening program, university
extension and a Teachers Training College. There were also a surprising
number of private schools and about 30,000 students enrolled in government
schools. Despite the rapid growth in schools, accessibility to education
After the annexation of Eritrea in
1962 and the formation of ELF in September 1961, the Haile Selassie regime
with its scorch earth policy and mass killings in the Easter and Western
Eritrean lowlands burnt villages including the schools and some schools
were used as military camps. Tens of thousands of Eritrean people
including students and teachers were uprooted from their villages and
towns and forced to flee and seek refuge in the Sudan.
The Derg pursued this barbaric policy
in its worst manner and thousands of students and teachers were tortured
and killed. Following the heavy and fierce fighting in areas surrounding
Asmara in January 1975, the number of schools and students dramatically
dropped. Many students were also massacred, mass imprisonment, detention,
blockage of main roads, others were forced to serve in the military and
some others were forced to leave their villages and towns either to join
the liberation fronts or to seek refuge through out the world.
only 20% of the school age population were schooling in
Education in Liberated Areas During the Struggle For
Education offered by the ELF
The contributions made by ELF in the
field of education during the struggle for independence is also
recognised. Though reference materials regarding the education policy and
system are not available and the few ex-ELF freedom fighters in Diaspora
contacted were not able to assist with any information, thousands of
Eritrean children including the author have become beneficiaries of the
education offered by ELF during the struggle for independence in the
librated areas. The ELF also had elementary schools for Eritrean refugees
in the Sudan.
Elementary education was for six years and both Tigrinya and Arabic were used as languages of instruction. The school the author attended in Tesseney in 1978 had two blocks of buildings and while those who chose Tigrinya as a language of instruction attended classrooms in one block of classrooms, those who chose Arabic as the language of instruction attended their classrooms in the second block of classrooms. Outside the classrooms, however, the pupils played together within the school compound and during lessons they each went to their respective blocks and classrooms to attend their lessons in their chosen language of instruction.
The ELF developed its own curriculum
and also published numerous textbooks in various subjects and both in
Arabic and Tigrinya. It is to be remembered that the Vatican Sponsored
elementary schools for Eritrean Refugees in Kessala Sudan also used these
textbooks published by ELF. The author remembers reading the earliest
Tigrinya version of the famous book
‘’Animal Farm’’ originally written by George Orwell in
English. It was in deed the
academics of the ELF members who played a pivotal role in the
establishment of the UNESCO sponsored middle and secondary schools for
Eritrean refugees in the Sudan.
Education Offered by the EPLF
During the liberation struggle and war
for self-determination and independence, education had been at the
forefront of social and political policies established by the EPLF to meet
Eritrea’s needs in a subsequent era of peace, and independence.
Education was a top priority in the
liberated areas and the process of schooling increased the literate
population and provided a nucleus of experienced teachers to develop
educational provision in the post-independence Eritrea.
The EPLF established a Department of
Education in 1975 and the education policy during the liberation struggle
was constantly evolved through a dialogue involving fighters, teachers and
citizens. The EPLF clearly defined the objectives of education in its
first Party Congress in 1977. These were as follows: -
the development of industry, agriculture, and technology in order to
improve the livelihood of the people,
Narrowing down and removing the gap in
the levels of cultural development and
Promoting the national unity of the
EPLF ‘s educational policy was centred on the strategies
employed to achieve ‘’unity in diversity’’.
The first revolutionary school in the
liberated areas was established in 1976. Elementary school education was
1st to 5th grade and Tigrinya was the language of
instruction. Middle school was from 6th to 7th grade
and at this level; English was the language of instruction. In 1977, the
first curriculum for both elementary and middle school was introduced in
the Revolutionary schools. These schools offered free education to the
freedom fighters’ children, the local population of the liberated areas
and so many others who were forced to flee from their home villages and
towns by the Derg and sought refuge in the EPLF liberated areas.
The education system practised was
thoroughly reviewed and later reformed in 1982. On this occasion, a new
curriculum for adults and young adults was introduced and secondary school
education was made available to the graduates of the middle school of the
The students of the Revolutionary
schools played a pivotal role in educating adults during the literacy
campaign in the liberated areas.
As a result of their active participation, more than 150,000 adults
became beneficiaries of this literacy campaign. Furthermore, the Red
Flowers took active participation in the economic and social life of the
local population. These included helping in the local clinic and
cultivation of the village communal farm. Both middle and secondary school
students would go to the various workshops, laboratories and to the wards
of the Central Hospital for work placements and to learn new
Against all the odds and in between the frequent battles, the freedom fighters also attended literacy and political science classes and within a short period of time, illiteracy within the EPLF Army was totally eradicated.
Girls and women participation in
education radically changed in Eritrea during the liberation struggle as a
result of the EPLF’s educational policy of equal opportunity.
The EPLF fostered the greatest change
in women’s education and the crucial roles they played in the struggle for
liberation and independence.
The EPLF recognised the need to include
women in its struggle, and the role of education in mobilising them. By
allowing women in its cadres and as active freedom fighters, the EPLF
consequently raised women’s status in Eritrea.
The EPLF also established the National
Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) in November 1979. 25 years on and this
grassroots organisation continues to work to change those factors that
restrain women from full-fledge educational and economic participation.
However, after independence, the old values continue to resurface
restraining girls from full-fledged educational participation further
complicating the NUEW’s work and its goals.
Additionally, the EPLF established
several schools in the Sudan for Eritrean refugees living in the cities
towns like Kessala, Gedaref, Khartoum and other refugee camps within Sudan.
The teachers in Revolutionary schools in the Sudan were composed of both
freedom fighters and volunteers working without pay.
These schools offered free elementary
education up to 5th grade using Tigrinya as a language of
instruction. Some schools were later expanded to accommodate
6th grade students and English was the language of instruction
at this level. The students pursued their middle and secondary education
at the UNESCO sponsored junior and secondary schools in Kessala and
Camboni schools in Port Sudan and Khartoum.
Tens of thousand of Eritrean refugee
children received free elementary education in these revolutionary schools
in the Sudan. With the help of these schools, the Eritrean refugees in the
Sudan gained the political awareness of the liberation struggle. The
people were also organised into the various National Unions starting with
the pupils that were known as Red Flower (Qeyahti Embaba), the youth and
Students Union, Women’s Union (NUEW) and the Trade Union. These grassroots
organisations played a crucial role in the liberation struggle and their
participation was being increased every year up to and until independence
The EPLF had been able to hone the
education system practised during the liberation struggle and after
independence the provisional government of Eritrea introduced the
education system practised in the Revolutionary schools and implemented
with some degree of confidence and at some speed.
The EPLF had a very successful educational policy and system because of the vision and commitment of the front and in particular the teachers and those working for the Department of Education.
Education During the first 12 years of Independence
The devastating 30 years of colonial
war for independence was finally ended on May 24th 1991. The Provisional Government of Eritrea
abolished the education system and curriculum that was being practised by
the Derg and implemented the EPLF’s 1982 education system and curriculum
that was being practised in the Revolutionary schools after carrying out
some corrective actions and improvement measures to it. As the EPLF had
been able to hone the education system practised during the liberation
struggle and after independence the provisional government of Eritrea
introduced the new education system practised in the Revolutionary schools
and implemented with some degree of confidence and at some
Unfortunately, the problems did not end there. The economy and
infrastructure had collapsed and social services including education and
health had disintegrated. Its human resources development was greatly
hampered during the struggle as its youth were persecuted and displaced.
The quality of education had so much deteriorated that there was a crisis
in the system. An illiteracy rate of over 80 per cent, a very low
attainment level amongst students, and also amongst many teachers, an
acute shortage of schools, a large number of schools badly damaged during
the war, a depressed state of Eritrean culture and language among the nine
groups have been inherited due to the imposition of Amharic language and
culture inside and outside schools.
educational system in Eritrea shows all the symptoms of prolonged neglect
under conditions of colonialism and war. At the time of independence in
1991, 84 per cent of the existing 190 schools were rated to be in serious
disrepair. The remaining 16 per cent were far from providing a
satisfactory learning environment. Disparity in the geographical
distribution of schools was sharply marked. For instance, the number of
secondary schools and students in the highlands was much higher than those
in the lowland areas of Eritrea.
Following Independence in 1991 Eritrea
gave high priority to education, so that by 1998, more than 375, 000
students, or 40% of the school-age population, were enrolled in more than
829 government and non-government schools however, most of these schools
need lot of improvement, expansion and/or replacement.
The system of education practiced was 5 years elementary, two years middle and four years secondary school up to 2002. However, this education system has failed to deliver expectations of producing efficient and skilled manpower to the Eritrean economy. This is precisely why the GOE declared the introduction of the new curriculum and education system in 2002. This new education system was introduced in the academic year 2003/04. This system stipulates that nursery education is for two years for four and five year olds, elementary is for five years, middle school for three years 6th to 8th grade and secondary school for four years 9th to 12th grade.
improvements are expected to
make the new education system
more flexible and profession oriented as well as minimise dropouts and
The language of instruction used in
nursery and elementary schools is mother tongue and all the nine national
languages have been institutionalised in their respective regions.
However, Tigrinya and Arabic are the language of instructions in the towns
and cities where people of various nationalities live together in harmony
and cohesion. English is the language of instruction from middle school up
Eritrea, over the last 13 years, there has been a phenomenal increase in
enrolment. The number of schools at all levels (Junior, Middle, Secondary
and Technical) increased from 293 in 1990/91 to 829 in 1999/2000. During
the same period students' population increased considerably from 208,168
to 431,508 while the numbers of teachers increased from 5,286 to 8,724.
Eritrea has now one University, one Commercial College, one Teacher
Training Institute (TTI), one Science and Technology College at Mai-Nefhi,
a number of other Technical and Vocational Institutions (MOE,
Various successive colonial regimes ruled the whole of Eritrea for over a century. Each one of them had their own educational policy as well as social, political and economic policies that where meant to benefit them most and Eritreans least. The interests and basic human rights of the Eritrean people were secondary to their primary objectives of prolonging their time in Eritrea and subjugating the Eritrean people. However, the British unlike the Italians and Ethiopia introduced a modern education system, which institutionalised Tigrinya and Arabic as languages of instruction in elementary schools and allowed Eritreans to pursue their schooling into middle and secondary schools as well as higher education. Unfortunately through their divide and rule policy, the Eritrean people were divided into two groups, Christians in the highlands using Tigrinya and Muslims in the lowlands using Arabic as languages of instruction.
However, after independence, the government of Eritrea embarked on a wide-ranging program designed to revitalise and develop the collapsed educational system. Further education has been set as the government’s priority. Because it has been realized that the educational system under the Derg regime was intentionally designed to reinforce the colonial ideologies and political machination. The GOE has long recognized education as a central element in development. It is a vital input in modernization where Eritrea a developing country, began its drive for social and economic development since its independence. Moreover it has been recognised that through education the major Eritrean national development strategies could be achieved.
strong conviction of the GOE together with the visible gains for
individuals from education stimulated an unprecedented growth of enrolment
in schools, colleges and university of Asmara. Substantial investment has
been made in Eritrean education Sector for the last thirteen years of
independence. The government of Eritrea recognises that the overall vision
of Eritrea’s future progress is ultimately based on human capital
formation, with the education and health as key inputs
Girma Amare (1967)
“The Aims and Purposes of Church Education”, Ethiopian Journal of
Education, Vol.1, No,1. pp.1-4.
Allen, H.B. (1953)
Rural Reconstruction in Action, New York: Cornell University Press.
(1972) “Education in Ethiopia during the Italian Fascist Occupation:
1936-1941”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies,
(1972) “Education Language and History: A Historical Background to Post
–war Ethiopia”, Ethiopian Journal of Education, Vol.7, No,1.(June)
Ravinder Rena (2000)
“Financing and Cost Recovery in Higher Education: A Study with Special
Reference to Private Colleges in Andhra Pradesh”, Ph.D. thesis submitted
to the Dept. of Economics, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India for the
award of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics.
Taye Adane (1992) A Historical Survey of State Education in Eritrea, Asmara: Educational Materials Production and Distribution Agency (EMPDA).
Haile Bokure(1995) The Foundation of Eritrean Education:
Integration or Innovation, USA
M.A. Salih ‘’Islamic Education in Eritrea’’ www.awate.com 2nd April 2004.
www.shaebia.org ‘’Shaebia Interview with the Minister of Education Osaman Saleh’’ 17th Sep. 2003.
Robert G. David, St Martin’s College, Lancaster, LA1 3JD, UK. International Journal of Educational Development 24 (2004) 437 - 450 ‘’Eritrean Voices, Indigenous Views on the development of the curriculum ten years after Independence’’.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Kidane Eyob, who is solely responsible for the contents of this page, contributes the above article. For any comments, the writer can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org